Exploring Magical Madrid – A Weekend in Spain’s Vibrant Capital
Spain’s capital Madrid is home to over 3 million people, with more than 6 million tourists flocking to its city each year. Madrid is a multicultural city, mixing the modern with old world traditions. Whether you want to shop till you drop, soak up some culture in the many museums, stroll around its perfectly manicured parks or taste tantalising tapas and bar hop until the early hours of the morning, Madrid has it all.
We booked a spacious studio apartment in the Centro district that overlooked the famous Mercado de San Miguel. Here you will find people tasting all sorts of culinary delights from paella and traditional croquettes to mouthwatering mozzarella, sushi and much more. There’s an interesting stall called The Sherry Corner. For €30 you get an audio guide along with 6 glasses of sherry & 6 coupons for tapas of your choice from the various market stalls.
If Sherry isn’t your thing you can enjoy freshly roasted coffee from Café del Art and a truly sensational tarta de Manzana from Horno San Onofre. If I could wake up to these two things every morning I would be an extremely happy woman.
Another market to visit is Mercado San Anton, located in the Chueca neighbourhood. Compared to Mercado de San Miguel this market is less touristy and is spread over three floors. On the ground floor, you will find stalls selling fruit, vegetables, meats, fish, and cheese to take home. Head to the second floor and try a number of takeaway dishes you can enjoy in the market. Grab a spot at one of the communal tables, a glass of wine and browse through Greek, Japanese or traditional Spanish cuisine.
No trip to Madrid is complete without a flamenco show. We headed to Essential Flamenco, which centrally located on Calle del la Cruz and is a great base to explore restaurants and bars. When you descend the stairs into the small and intimate showroom there is a sense of quiet anticipation. There were two dancers, one male, and one female and a band with a singer, guitarist, violinist and drummer. If you’re trying to avoid the typical touristy things I can understand you avoiding a flamenco show, but this is well worth the visit. The passion from the dancers was electric and the musicians were top class.
Each musician came out and performed a short solo set, and the dancers took turns dancing together and individually. The stage is small and you’re sitting so close you can feel the spirit from the performers. There are no microphones or speakers and you truly feel like you are seeing flamenco the way it was performed many years ago. It was a great experience and one I would very much recommend.
There are many bars and restaurants around this area, in particular, Vinoteca is a lovely spot that filled with locals, which is always a good sign. We had the patatas bravas, pigs cheek in red wine, ham croquettes and a selection of tapas served on bread. The pigs cheek in red wine could possibly be one of the nicest things I have ever tasted. It came with silky smooth potato pureé and the meat was so soft, I’m salivating just thinking about it now.
There is no shortage of good food in Madrid, you will be spoiled for choice. I recommend you to try the famous jamon ibérico de bellota. This is the cured ham that you will see on nearly every menu or in shop windows and supermarkets. This ham is from pigs fed on acorns and aged longer than the more common serrano ham, giving it a darker colour.
Another dish you will see regularly on menus is huevos rotos, which means broken eggs. Lightly fried eggs and Jamon are served on top of fried potatoes or french fries. This meal is filling and fantastic for any time of day.
Every Sunday in Madrid sees the El Rastro Market spring to life. This vast market has hundreds of stalls for clothing, antiques, food vendors and much more. There are always crowds of people with a lively atmosphere and buzz albeit a little overwhelming if you’re from a little city like me! It’s a must see if you’re in Madrid on a Sunday. Grab a coffee and browse the stall-lined streets and haggle in the best Spanish you can muster. When in Madrid you can’t miss a visit to El Retiro Park.
This large public park is home to architecture, greenery, culture and much more. There is a large lake where you can rent boats, taking some time to enjoy the view. T cafés to stop for a coffee or you could visit a local food market and pick up some Spanish cheese and jamon and bring your own picnic. El Retrio is the perfect place to relax and take shelter from the hustle and bustle of the city.
My love for Madrid grows each time I visit, and no matter how many times I return there are always new adventures to have. This vibrant city is welcoming, electric and bursting with Spanish charm. Put magical Madrid on your bucket list and you won’t be disappointed.
[su_note note_color=”#eeede9″]FEATURE BY SINÉAD SMYTH[/su_note]